Modern Secession 2
I noted the re-emergence of secession as a fantasy on the American right a while ago, after noticing an extraordinarily high number of responses on CNN's politics page to a suggestion by Chuck Norris that he'd like to be President of Texas. At the time, I thought it on a par with Dmitri Orlov's fantasy (which I hope earned him newspaper currency) of America as a sort of Soviet Union.
Texas, of course, like several American States, was briefly an independent republic before joining the Union. It was encouraged by the British, who wanted it to last, as a counter to the American Union.
The Union itself, though it has survived civil war and multiple depressions, is a mixture of judicial creation and federal expansion. Every so often it changes, and it contains within itself a mechanism for radical change--Article V of the Constitution, which provides for a convention--that is, despite requests, fairly frequently ignored.
Now, though, what the super-patriots of the right must think is simply a crowd-pleasing movement is gaining steam. A campaign to pass non-binding resolutions in statehouses, affirming the sovereignty of states, and suggesting that the tenth amendment, which reserves unnamed powers to the states and their people, should be enforced, has been endorsed by the Governor of Texas.
It is more than possible to read too much into this sort of thing. I'm mildly supportive of a reassertion of the federalism at the heart of the American republic. My one demented reader will recall my conversation with sundry unknown people throwing mechanical answers at me about nationalisation of the electoral college a few months ago.
Really, though, I think that the State legislatures are playing with fire.
State legislatures are odd things neglected by national journalists. Many of them, I have to note, are much more representative of their voters than Washington is. This is inevitable. A good many state legislatures are part-time or unpaid affairs, and sometimes state government is so democratic that it makes little sense for lobbyists to attempt to corrupt people who have no real power.
Some American cities have taken to issuing 'scrip'--that is, their own currency, though redeemable, for legal purposes, for dollars. From one point of view, this is simply a state and municipal approach to the bank problem, which is in part a problem arising from an inability to insure lending and investment against risk. States are displacing markets by issuing their own currency, which is usually based on local business anyway. It happens in Britain too. Scrip represents a kind of community mefo-bill, but based on local markets rather than rearmament.
Put the two developments together. Brazil got into terrible trouble like this. States asserted their rights and their lack of responsibility to the federal government to hang onto their own spending and resources, but their borrowing was part of the whole. The federal government eventually had to offer them a choice of continued support or bankruptcy; they responded by threatening to withhold monies.
Closer to home, this is the way the Articles of Confederation, the first American Constitution, died. The Articles, by the way, are usually referred to, like Mrs Rochester, in quiet tones and locked in an attic. They are like a memory of a first marriage; not to be mentioned in the company of a second wife.
Moreover, secession is precisely the food that fed the mind which planned the Oklahoma bombing. It is a viper's nest. One hundred and Fifty years after it first hissed, why are people talking about throwing it back into childrens' beds, as Lincoln once put it?
The American states are practically bankrupt. The federal government (itself not in good health) is attempting to refloat them and itself on their collective credit via paper. This is no time for the states to start talking about redefining the Union unless they are actually prepared for the currency crisis and the possibility that words might translate into action down the line.
Such is the irresponsibility of a narcissistic American right, however, that they might just get what they want. 2012 is not that far away, and Mrs Palin, after all, once flirted with Alaskan secession....